Philippines sees no need to extend travel bans over new COVID-19 variant

The Philippine government will not be extending travel restrictions on foreigners from over 30 countries, saying newly tightened quarantine rules will be enough to prevent more entries of the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19.

"As of now, our capacity to treat those with serious symptoms is enough so no need to ban them," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday, February 1, during a press briefing.

He also described as sufficient new rules requiring that travelers from abroad, including returning Filipinos, take a COVID-19 swab test 5 days after their arrival and while on quarantine. If test results turn out negative, they spend the rest of their 14-day quarantine in the locality of their destination, with the supervision of the local government there.

"The existing protocols are enough to prevent the entry of the new variant," said Roque, who is also spokesman of the COVID-19 task force.

Previously, foreigners coming from over 30 countries with the new virus variant had been barred from entering the Philippines, save for a few exceptions. The rule had expired on January 31. For some countries, including China and the United Arab Emirates, the rule was only in place for days.

'Bad for the economy'

But Roque said the restrictions had to be lifted for the good of the economy.

"We can't continue with those bans because it will be bad for our economy," he said in Filipino.

The roughly one-month travel restrictions had only been enforced, he said, to give authorities more time to put tightened rules in place and ensure sufficient capability to treat anyone who develops severe symptoms.

Yet the health department has yet to piece together how a dozen people in Mountain Province got infected with the new variant after being close contacts of a person who returned from the UK but had tested negative for the variant.

There are so far 17 confirmed cases of the new variant in the country. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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